In Sanford, hurt feelings over a string of past incidents involving black victims and white perpetrators have yet to ease, and the shooting rekindled distrust over the way police and courtshave handled such cases. Local college students are planning rallies over the Martin case,and this afternoon, ministers from a number of black churches in the area gathered to voice their anger.
“There has been tension between the black community and the police for a long time,” Turner Clayton, president of the local NAACP, told HuffPost Black Voices. “When [Chief Lee] firststarted, it seemed that things would get better, but with this Martin case, seems we're dealingwith the same old Sanford regime.”
Lee’s predecessor, Brian Tooley, was forced from office last year following a scandal involvinga lieutenant’s sonwho was captured on video attacking a homeless black man. Police officersreportedly questioned him but did not arrest him.The officer’s son, Justin Collison, 21, later turned himself in after the video surfaced on YouTube and was charged in the attack.
Collison's family paid an undisclosed sum to the homeless man, Sherman Ware, and Ware asked prosecutors to drop the case.They didn't, and Collison eventually pleaded no contest and received probation, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
But the 2005 killing of a black teenager, Travares McGill, by two white security guards, one theson of a Sanford Police officer, drove city race relations to a modern low, according to some black residents.Early one summer morning, security guards Patrick Swofford and Bryan Ansley saw McGilldropping off a group of friends in the parking lot of the apartment complex they were hired toguard, according to published reports. They claimed McGill tried to run them down, and bothfired, later claiming self-defense. McGill was pronounced dead at the scene. Swofford was a police department volunteer and Ansley is the son of a former veteran of the force.
The pair was arrested and charged, Swofford with manslaughter and Ansley with firing into anoccupied vehicle.But a judge later cited lack of evidence and dismissed both cases.According toautopsy reports, McGill suffered fatal gunshot wounds to the back , and it was unclear if the pair was in danger.“People are outraged because they never recovered from the last shooting, or recovered from the beating a year or so ago with the policeman’s son,” said Turner. “All of these things areescalating and simmering, and it’s going to reach a point where it’s going to explode.”
The Sanford Police Department on Tuesday turned the case over to the Seminole County StateAttorney’s Office.The state attorney will now decide whether or not Zimmerman will becharged in connection with the killing.
Natalie Jackson, an attorney for the Martin family and a Sanford native, said that she has noconfidence Zimmerman will be charged. “I’m an eternal optimist,” Jackson said. “But if history[in Sanford] has shown me anything, they are not going to do anything.”
In the year since Lee took over the department, change seemed to be within reach.
Lee told the Orlando Sentinel in June that, “I hope to focus on developing partnerships with thecommunity and continuing what they've started in their efforts of community policing: working
Obtained via FOIA by Judicial Watch, Inc.